Office projects approved around California Avenue

Despite outcries about commercial growth, proposals at Olive Garden site and on Park Boulevard get green lights

The rapidly changing area around California Avenue is likely to get another heavy dollop of commercial development after two projects with sizable office space received endorsements from Palo Alto's Architectural Review Board this week.

Both projects -- a research-and-development building at 2747 Park Blvd. and a mixed-use development at 2515 El Camino Real (the present site of the Olive Garden restaurant) -- are three-story buildings that have been undergoing city scrutiny for well over a year.

The project at the Olive Garden site will involve demolishing the restaurant and constructing a three-story, 39,858-square-foot building with retail, 13 condominiums and 9,835 square feet of office space.

The Jay Paul development includes replacement of an existing 4,800-square-foot building with a 33,323-square-foot one. It will include 133 parking spaces, with 25 spaces underground and 108 surface parking spaces.

In addition to endorsing the projects on El Camino and Park two projects, the Architectural Review Board also voted to approve a three-story building downtown at 411 Lytton Ave. This project would include 13,522 square feet of office space along with retail space and two residential units.

All three projects were expected to have to compete for City Council approval under the city's newly adopted ordinance limiting office development, which caps total new office space in three primary commercial areas to 50,000 square feet per year. All were trying to meet the March 31 approval deadline set by the ordinance, with the understanding that the council would act as the final arbiter between developments should the proposed projects jointly total more than 50,000 square feet of office space.

That, however, will not be necessary, as the total square footage is coming in under the threshold set. Thus, the March 31 deadline is now moot and the "beauty contest" that the council was planning to conduct for competing projects will not be needed.

All three projects are now set to be approved by the city's planning department without any council review.

The sudden disappearance of a need to weigh the projects against each other is due to the board also voting Thursday not to move ahead with a proposed development at 901 High St., which would have tipped office development over the 50,000-square-foot threshold.

Instead, the board agreed that the High Street development needs to be redesigned and scheduled another hearing for May 19. Because the project won't be ready by the March 31 deadline, it will now have to wait until next year before it could be considered for approval.

The architectural panel has had fewer reservations about the two office projects around California Avenue, both of which are located in areas that have seen a surge of new projects in recent years. The Jay Paul project would be located near Park Plaza, a new development that includes 82 apartments along with research-and-development space. Meanwhile, the Olive Garden site project is across the street from Stanford University's new residential development, which includes 70 units of affordable housing.

Designed by Ken Hayes, the El Camino project has already undergone several hearings, most recently on March 3, when several members asked Hayes to tweak the design, add landscaping elements and make the development more pedestrian-friendly.

On Thursday, the board agreed that Hayes has responded well to the proposed changes and voted 3-1, with Alexander Lew dissenting and Peter Baltay absent, to endorse the project. Even Lew, who opposed the proposal, praised the project and said he generally likes it. But much like at the prior hearing, Lew criticized the building's blocklong facade as being too long for the area.

The Jay Paul development received an even warmer welcome, winning the board's unanimous approval and words of enthusiastic praise. The proposal includes sidewalk enhancements along Sheridan Avenue to make it easier for pedestrians to get to the California Avenue Caltrain station; areas adjacent to the public sidewalk would also be spruced up with new landscaping; and Park Boulevard would be adorned with new benches and bike racks.

In reviewing the project, board member Baltay called it "one of the best projects I've seen, as far as landscaping goes" and said he would be happy to approve it. Board member Wynne Furth also lauded the proposed landscaping, which is centered around a protected Valley Oak and includes an outdoor seating area.

The building itself will be located on the corner of Park and Page Mill Road, with much of the rest of the site occupied by a parking lot interspersed by rows of trees. Lew called Jay Paul's proposed building "very handsome."

Board Chair Robert Gooyer concurred.

"It's come a long way, and I'm really happy with the final review," Gooyer said.

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6 people like this
Posted by Bike Commuter
a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 18, 2016 at 10:03 am

Who else will be helping to pay for the new required signal at Park Blvd and Page Mill?

The ARB staff report for 2747 Park Blvd had this text:

"CEQA Mitigation Measure T-1 Park Boulevard and Page Mill Road: In order to maintain the LOS at the City of Palo Alto’s acceptable standards, installation of a traffic signal at the intersection of Park Boulevard and Page Mill Road is required. The project sponsor is required to pay a fair share of the associated mitigation measure. It is estimated that approximately 16.6% of the total cost of design and construction shall be paid by the project sponsor as a fair share towards the installation of a traffic signal. Payment of funds is required prior to occupancy of the building."

Here is a link to the full report:
Web Link

6 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 18, 2016 at 11:02 am

The quality of life in PA continues to decline.
I've heard PA is a sanctuary city, too.

15 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of University South
on Mar 18, 2016 at 1:32 pm

Wow. The City Council spent all last year arguing about a cap, and it turns out to do exactly nothing. Great job, Council!

Maybe this year they can focus on traffic. The TMA and SRP initiatives are a good step. What about changing the route of the city shuttle so that it does something useful? We know that many of the downtown service workers are commuting from EPA and parking in the neighborhoods, but the shuttle doesn't even cross the bridge into EPA!

What a waste of a year.

8 people like this
Posted by Jenny
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 18, 2016 at 4:34 pm

If developer/plans to build a cold, impersonal office building on El Camino on the present site of the
lovely Olive Garden restaurant, favored by so many, why not have that restaurant on the first floor and just
build the 'ivory' $$ tower above. Stop demolishing the family-style restaurants and other amenities for us
ordinary folks.

1 person likes this
Posted by Jenny
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 18, 2016 at 4:34 pm

If developer/plans to build a cold, impersonal office building on El Camino on the present site of the
lovely Olive Garden restaurant, favored by so many, why not have that restaurant on the first floor and just
build the 'ivory' $$ tower above. Stop demolishing the family-style restaurants and other amenities for us
ordinary folks.

3 people like this
Posted by Roger Overnaut
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 18, 2016 at 5:45 pm

On the bright side, we need have no concerns about traffic impacts. Commute traffic is already impossible in the area, so these additions will make no difference.

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Professorville

on Sep 26, 2017 at 11:34 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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